Thursday 29 September 2016

Health crisis exposes Coalition's inadequacies

Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30

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IN one of his famous outbursts, Winston Churchill fulminated against sterility at Westminster: "So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent."

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Looking back at a week that saw a hospital close its A&E doors because of overcrowding; and angry reactions from despairing flood victims hoping the Cabinet meeting on the crisis would deliver something more dynamic than the prospect of another "taskforce", a similar distemper seems to have affected the Coalition.

While there was significantly good news as Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin - doing their own 'Chuckle Brothers' routine - unveiled very welcome exchequer figures showing the State took over €3bn more than expected in 2015; it is the images of the elderly and infirm left on trolleys that will endure. As mentioned elsewhere in the paper today, since 2013 when the first of the supplementary Budgets was introduced, an extra €1,200m has been swallowed up by the department. If lobbing money at the problem was all that was required solutions would be straightforward enough.

But to borrow Samuel Goldwyn's malapropism, we already appear to have "spared no expense to save money on this one".

Today, the HSE and INMO will sit down in an effort to prevent stoppages aimed at highlighting overcrowding and understaffing. One would have imagined that delays of days for a bed would have been sufficient to highlight the dysfunction at A&Es. Proposals signed off on by the INMO's own leader were rejected by ballot due to what was believed to have been a lack of faith in the prospects of their being implemented in hospitals. A lack of trust; a lack of resolve; a lack of direction; failure to reform and coordinate; all have been identified as critical factors in the health crisis.

They say that the only human institution impervious to change ought to be the cemetery, but the Department of Health might be another. The ministers come and go, but the problems remain. Deficits in accountability and responsibility along with a clear definition of goals must be addressed.

Restoring direction, dynamism, leadership and authority has to be a priority when the status quo is so manifestly inadequate.

Irish Independent

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